The Rainbow Family World Peace Gatherings have occurred without permits since 1981. Our chief position has been that we do not need anyone's permission to gather, and that we sign away our right to peaceably assemble when we sign permits. We have always sought full cooperation with everyone impacted by the Gathering. We have always left sites in a condition at least as good as we found them, usually better; we did have a hard time in North Carolina because the Forest Service busted our cleanup crew.

As always, no one person is qualified to speak for the Family and there is a tradition that any contacts with the authorities have at least two family members present, so that one may act as a "fair witness". We are all "liaisons" for the council, and anything we say or do for the Family is subject to the approval of the council.

A common request from the authorities is that we post a performance bond. This is something we have never done, since it constitutes requiring insurance to go to church. The Family holds that Rainbow is not a sue-able entity, or is even a legal entity at all - judges aren't too hot on this idea. A good model to cite might be the Mennonite community in Pennsylvania, which conscientiously objects to having auto insurance, which is mandatory in PA. They have a deal with the government whereby they simply pledge, as a community, to make good on any liabilities incurred. Rainbow has a spotless record on making good on liabilities.

ROOTS: The Rainbow Family of Living Light (aka Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes, etc.) didn't really begin at any specific time, and has never really existed as a formal organization. In many ways, it is a fundamental human expression, the tendency of people to gather together in a natural place and express themselves in ways that come naturally to them, to live and let live, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

In the U.S. in the late 1960's and early 70's, a kind of critical mass of consciousness developed. Beyond the media hype of "fading movement", those who were serious in the hippie and anti-war movements were learning what political life was really about, and, most importantly, were learning basic economics and to take care of their own. After some hard lessons at the many mega-events of the time, many were becoming skilled at coping with the care and feeding of tens of thousands of people at a time, and organized themselves into tribes dedicated to that purpose. A diverse and decentralized social fabric began to weave itself from threads of hippie culture, back-to-the-landers, american indian spiritual teachings, pacifist-anarchist traditions, eastern mysticism, and the legacy of depression era hobo street wisdom.

Although this fabric included visionaries, gurus, and people with strong organizing skills, it has not produced a leader/follower decision-making process or hierarchy. Instead, all decision making power is held in a main council, open to all, with all individuals holding equal power, and all decisions made only by unanimous consensus. Although it is frequently a difficult process, it has stood the test of time, and has served the whole quite well. This process makes it essentially impossible for authorities, power-trippers, or hostile elements to intimidate or manipulate individuals to the detriment of the group.

LEGAL: This process also presents challenges to the legal system, especially when it comes to simply defining Rainbow in legal terms. The authorities are constantly searching for our "leaders", "representatives", or "organizers" and seem to be conceptually unable (or unwilling) to cope with the reality that we don't have any. The Gathering uses the term and concept "liaison" (or "legaliaison") to refer to one who communicates with authorities but has no power to act on behalf of the Council. in the 1988 Texas case, Judge Justice stated that he felt the government had a right to choose representatives from within the family if we refused to appoint them, but this portion of his opinion may not be binding.

The Gathering seems to consider itself a relatively pure example of Peaceful Assembly, and therefore the only "permit" required is the guarantee of the right provided in the First Amendment. A number of times, in more cooperative years, the USFS has accepted "operating agreements", negotiated by both parties and revocable by no one, in lieu of permits. Perhaps they could be convinced to accept this as a permit alternative on a permanent basis - this would be ideal, and has some precedent.

The Gathering has also consistently refused to pay performance bonds, citing the spiritual nature of the Gathering and that it would be unconstitutional to "require insurance to go to church". Judge Justice certified us as a "defendant class", but lawyers have said that this doesn't necessarily mean we are a sue-able entity (see enclosure "Why We Don't Sign Permits"). It's interesting to think that Rainbow simply may not be truly definable in legal terms.

Certainly the Gathering seems to feel that the Government has no right to regulate it, but here's where they part company with the courts. it seems that the courts have held that the USFS has the right to regulate Gatherings, but has so far failed to write regulations that are constitutional. Ideally, we would undermine their "right" to regulate; otherwise, we must simply fight them every time they try, on the theory that they will ever be able to write a regulation constitutional enough to stand up. With the conservative shift in the courts now, this is a shaky bet. If there is some type of higher recourse, permanent injunction, congressional intervention, etc., that we can achieve, perhaps we can stay out of court for good.

FOOTNOTE #1: In recent years, the authorities have tried to suppress the Gathering on the supposed grounds that the Gathering is a sanitation hazard. Although our sanitation technology is constantly evolving, the reality is that our Gatherings generally exceed the U.S. Army Field Standards for large group camping, we always seek to work harmoniously with local health departments, and they havecertified us as sanitary.

FOOTNOTE #2: There have come to be many spontaneous local and regional Gatherings calling themselves Rainbow; the 1986 Arizona case was initiated at a local Gathering. Although there is often autual support and overlap attendance, all Rainbow Gatherings are entirely autonomous and independent from one another.

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